Places to go Hiking in San Francisco

By Nikita Das on May 05, 2017
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Living amidst this fast-paced world and its constantly appearing deadlines, it becomes necessary to get away from it all every once in a while. Especially when you are living in a city like San Francisco. Now that the summer is one the verge of saying hello and the weather is still cool and soothing, there is plenty of opportunities out there, asking us to just let loose. A hiking rendezvous amidst the vivid terrains of the country can be a great way to do just that! For folks planning to set off on one such adventure, here's a list of best Places to go Hiking in San Francisco that you must definitely check out!

1. Lands End Trail

Lands End Trail in San Francisco

Lands end trail is certainly one of the most frequented hikes near San Francisco. The secret of its extreme popularity lies in the beautiful views that its bestows one with. It is a lovely trail that will take you through the midst of dense cypress and rocky surfaces, making it a wild experience for anyone. Take a walk along this 3.5 miles trail and explore its historic Sutro baths and the rock labyrinth. Once done, reach to its highest point i.e. Eagle’s Point, and witness the striking view of the pacific coast from there. The parking is available at the Lands End lookout which is also home to a visitor center and a cafe, in case you need any information feel like resting after your adventure. A great nature escape for all!

Distance from Union Square: 5.8 miles; 23 minutes driving (Via Geary Blvd)
Hike distance: 3.5 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Activities: Dog Walking, Birding, Hiking, Biking, Running, Walking, Viewing Wildlife
Tips- Check out the Palace of the Legion of Honor museum if you can.

2. Palomarin Trailhead to Alamere Falls Trails

Palomarin Trailhead to Alamere Falls TrailsPC: Wikimedia Commons

It can be a little intense for those who are not habitual of working out a lot, but nonetheless, worth it! The trail is about 8 miles long and passes through multiple waterfalls leaving scenic memories in its wake. Although you may find a lot of steep parts and forks along the way, the occasional stoppage at the numerous small lakes makes up for it. Start your hike through the groves of trees, relish the spellbinding sights of coastline and Farallon islands and check out the famous Bass. The path ultimately ends at Alamere Falls which is the largest of all and is deemed to be absolutely breathtaking.
Distance from Union Square: 33.7 miles; 1 hours 21 minutes driving (Via CA-1 S)
Hike distance: 8 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Running, Walking, Viewing wildlife and waterfall
Tip: There are poisoned oaks in the unmanned trails; beware of that, Take layers and lots of water with you

3. McLaren Park Trail

McLaren Park Trail in San Francisco

San Francisco's second-largest park has plenty of hiking options, including the thought-provoking "Philosopher's Way," a 2.7-mile loop trail that was dedicated in 2013. The trail is meant to "highlight the interrelationships between the area's ecology, geography, history," and the 14 musing stations provide interesting details about the nature and history of surrounding landscapes.
Distancefrom Union Square: 6.9 miles; 19 minutes driving (Via 1-280 N)
Hike distance: 2.7 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Biking, Running, Walking, Viewing Wildflowers, Dog Walking
Tip: Bring plenty of water with you.

4. Angel Island

Angel Island for a scenic trailPC: Franco Folini/

From the city, jump on a ferry to this mostly uninhabited California Historical Landmark that's popular with cyclists, hikers, and campers. It offers incredible 360 views of the Bay and the city yet it feels like a world away. Skip the hassle of driving to a trail, and instead take the Blue & Gold Fleet’s ferry from Pier 41 to the Bay Area’s largest island. Rising from the bay in between San Francisco and Marin County, Angel Island has a five-mile loop hike on an easy-to-moderate fire road that guides you through coastal shrubs, bay, and oak trees, as well as eerie abandoned military bunkers and hospitals.

Distance from Union Square: 2 hours via train and ferry (Catch a train from Stockton St & Sutter St)

Hike distance: 6 miles

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Activities: Birding, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Natural Detour, Road Biking, Running, Walking, Viewing Wildflowers & Wildlife

Tip: Keep an eye on the ferry schedules, Ferry tickets are inclusive of park fees, Bring water with you and check the weather before leaving

5. Batteries to Bluffs trail

Batteries to Bluffs trailPC: Liji Jinaraj/

Plenty of history, scenery, and steps await on this gruelling trip along the western edge of the Presidio. Experience the wild western shoreline on the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. This rugged route takes visitors along the cliffs bordering the Pacific Ocean, allowing hikers to explore historic gun batteries, seeps and springs, coastal plants and wildlife, and stunning views. This short trail provides a great way to see the bluffs near the Presidio and offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin that are hard to beat.Try hiking this trail near the end of the day to enjoy a long sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Distance from Union Square: 5.6 miles; 20 minutes driving (via US-101 S and Bush St)
Hike distance: 2.3 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Running, Biking, Trekking, Walking, Viewing Wildflowers
Tip: Wear sturdy shoes and put on sunscreen.

6. Mount Sutro Loop

Mount Sutro LoopPC:

Painstaking work has revived this area, and several trails make their way through the eucalyptus above UCSF. The Historic Trail winds around the north edge of the mountain and offers a good view of Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. Explore this nook of wilderness that is near the UCSF campus, this greenbelt has a native garden and is a great place to get away for a few hours. The trail is moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Sausalito, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
Distance from Union Square: 4.6 miles; 15 minutes driving
Hike distance: 2 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate
ActivitieS: Birding, Hiking, Running, Mountain Biking, Trekking, Walking,
Tip: Bring lots of water with you.

7. Tennessee Valley Trail

Tennessee Valley Trail

Pack a picnic and head across the Golden Gate Bridge for an easy Bay Area hike to the national recreation area’s Tennessee Cove, where rolling waves dissolve on the beach’s black sand, pelicans soar overhead, and the relentless tide batters the offshore rocks. Tennessee Valley’s wide, level path cuts through a valley between chaparral-covered hills. The trail forks just before a bird-filled lagoon; go left along the water’s edge to scout for ducks and egrets, then stroll onward to Tennessee Cove. Bracketed by high cliffs, this pocket beach is where the steamship the S.S.Tennessee wrecked in dense fog in 1853. All of the roughly 550 passengers were saved, but the surf tore the ship to bits. See this picturesque cove from a pelican’s perspective by hiking up the northwestern bluff to an old military bunker.

Distance from Union Square: 12.1 miles; 25 minutes via car and ferry (drive via US-101 S)

Hike distance: 3.4 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Road Biking, Horseback Riding, Trail Running, Mountain Biking, Walking,
Tip: Bring lots of water and sunscreen with you.

8. Muir Woods

Muir WoodsPC: Wikimedia Commons

The magic of Muir Woods is that it’s one of the only remaining old-growth redwood forests in the Bay Area. Expect this to be a transporting experience, as you step into the cool hush of a thousand-year-old forest and the canopy covers you overhead. The loops are paved (or on boardwalks), but given the amount of fog and moisture hanging in the forest air, the steeper dirt trails can get muddy, so come prepared. A unique sight is the "family circles" of redwoods along the Bohemian Grove Trail, where enormous redwoods grow in circles around a parent root, stooping over in reverence. Sure, it's a tourist mecca, but those redwoods never get old. Also, there are lots of opportunities to venture beyond the main trail and get deep into those woods.

Distancefrom Union Square: 16.3 miles; 38 minutes via car and ferry (drive via US-101 S)

Hike distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Road Biking, Trail Running, Walking, Wildflower Viewing
Tip: Bring lots of water with you.

9. Fort Funston Trail

Fort Funston Trail

Hold onto your hat. Fort Funston features 200-foot high sandy bluffs on San Francisco's south-west coast where the winds blow reliably wildly. Be aware that it's a steep, strenuous hike down to the beach and back up. A network of trails makes it ideal for hiking and horseback riding. Dog owners will be happy to know they can take leashes off here. It is also home to the Fort Funston Native Plant Nursery.
Distance from Union Square: 11.7 miles; 24 minutes driving (Via I-280 N)
Hike distance: 2 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Road Biking, Trail Running, Walking
Tip: Bring lots of water with you.

10. The Dipsea Trail

The Dipsea TrailPC: ih/

Just a few short miles over the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most notable trails in Northern California, the Dipsea. Though it’s known for its intense annual Dipsea Race, you don’t have to be a marathoner to enjoy the views. From the Mill Valley trailhead, amble up a series of wooden staircases that ascend through a redwood grove, then stroll along the ridge overlooking Marin’s stunning coastal valleys. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can follow the 9.5-mile trail all the way to Stinson Beach.
Distance from Union Square: 2 hours 7 minutes via train & ferry (Via Panoramic Hwy & Pan Toll Ranger)
Hike distance: 7.5 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Road Biking, Trail Running, Walking
Tip: You can also start hike from Pantoll

11. Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve

Claremont Canyon Regional PreservePC:

Behind the historic Claremont Hotel is a 208-acre preserve with picturesque hiking trails. The Stonewall-Panoramic Trail is the primary trail, and also the one you’re gonna wanna do because it will take you to some of the best views in the Berkeley Hills that include Downtown Berkeley, Downtown Oakland, and the San Francisco Bay. The climb will definitely get your heart rate up; while it's just over a mile, you gain about 700 ft of elevation... which is ultimately totally worth it. They all are though, aren’t they?

from Union Square: 14.6 miles; 35 minutes via car & ferry (Via I-80 W)
Hike distance: 1.6 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Road Biking, Trail Running, Walking
Tip: Hiking boots are a good idea, Bring GPS with you

12. Marin Headlands

Marin HeadlandsPC:

A short hop across the Golden Gate will take you to the 2,000-acre expanse of the Marin Headlands, a veritable nature lover's playground. The Headlands are strung with trails of varying difficulty and sights, and you can choose to hug the cliffside along Jurassic rock formations; tread through tranquil woodland, or stroll along protected pebble beaches. Two not to be missed are the Point Bonita Trail and the Rodeo Lagoon Trail. The former starts from Battery Mendell and winds down to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. There are no cafés within the Headlands, so this is a great place to stop for a packed lunch (or a bottle of wine, if you’re so inclined).
Distance from Union Square: 12.7 miles; 36 minutes via car & ferry (Via US-101 S)
Hike distance: 11.5 miles
Difficulty Level: Hard
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Road Biking, Trail Running, Walking
Tip: Hiking boots are a good idea, Bring plenty of water

13. Lake Merced

Lake Merced

Tucked into the southwestern corner of San Francisco, the 4.5-mile loop around Lake Merced is a great spot for a traffic-free run with a lovely dose of nature in the urban environs of San Francisco. Popular with runners, joggers, and walkers, this mostly flat, paved path along with a dirt trail alongside it circles Lake Merced and a portion of the nearby golf course amidst the 614-acre Lake Merced Park. It’s a solid choice for a quick run, whether on your lunch break or to shed off the stress from a long day in the office, and a popular spot for races.
Distance from Union Square: 12.6 miles; 26 minutes driving (Via I-280 N)
Hike distance: 4.5 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Road Biking, Trail Running, Walking
Tip: It can be crowded on weekends; come on weekdays to avoid crowd

Hiking can be a rejuvenating experience. Ensure to try out one of these places during your next weekend off!

Also Check Out:

Best Places for Hiking in Portland

Best Hiking Trails Around San Diego

Best Hikes in Washington State

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